Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson may have reckoned that the best things in life are free, but that’s because they’re famous and generally don’t have to pay for stuff. Unfortunately, on a round the world adventure, you will have to shell out some money to experience a lot of what will become the highlights. However, that’s not to say that the budget-conscious can’t enjoy some of the key RTW destinations on the cheap. Most major cities have a host of attractions you can enjoy without spending a penny/ cent/ baht – and these are just some of them...



Sydney for free


The simplest free activity in Sydney is to head down to the beach (take your pick which one – there’s not exactly a shortage). Bodysurfing in the waves is the best free entertainment you can get. Otherwise, Sydney has some classic walks that can be turned into day-long affairs – the Bondi to Coogee and Spit Bridge to Manly walks are the best known. For free entertainment, Darling Harbour is the spot – there are often free concerts and festivals going on there – while anywhere around Sydney Harbour is prime position for the events on Australia Day or New Year’s Eve. For a dose of culture, there’s no entrance fee for the Art Gallery of New South Wales or the Australian National Maritime Museum.


New York City for free


A number of New York’s museums work on a ‘suggested donation’ policy, which you can mercilessly take advantage of if you’re shamelessly tight. Of these, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers no-strings-attached free entry between 4pm and 8pm on a Friday. Other museums – such as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the Harbor Defense Museum and the Onassis Cultural Collection – have permanent free entry. It also costs nothing to get on the ferry to Staten Island. For simpler pleasures, head for a stroll around Central Park or – during summer – pitch up there for one of the numerous free concerts that are put on in Manhattan’s green lung.


Singapore for free


Singapore is brimming with free stuff – you’ll not have to pay to enter the temples or the war cemeteries, while some of the city’s biggest attractions don’t charge an entry fee either. These include the fantastically bonkers Haw Par Villa, with its 3D interpretations of what hell is like, and the sobering Changi Chapel and Museum. The latter details the experiences of Prisoners of War in World II, and is an essential history lesson. If by some minor miracle it’s not raining, you may prefer to head into the great outdoors. In which case, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Botanic Gardens are good sanctuaries from the urban frenzy.


Hong Kong for free


Wednesday is something for nothing day in Honkers. Both the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Space Museum waive entrance charges then. Some rather more niche collections – such as the Museum of Tea Ware, Hong Kong Racing Museum and the Correctional Services Museum – don’t charge for entry at any time. Hong Kong’s big secret, however, is that it’s an excellent place for hiking. Beyond Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, before the border with China proper, you get the New Territories. The high rises are replaced by hills here and there’s some great walking to be done at no cost. The brave/ masochistic can try and take on the 50km Hong Kong Trail in a day. The sensible can just pick a section of it.


Tokyo for free


The classic in freebie in Tokyo is to head up to the viewing galleries on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. There are some top notch views out over Mount Fuji available from here. There’s no entrance fee for most shrines and temples, while you can visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace or walk around the moat without shedding any yen either. If you like your entertainment of rampantly varying quality, and don’t want to have to pay for it, head to Yoyogi Park on a Sunday – there are usually live performers and bands fighting for your attention.

And, in terms of free cultural attractions, who could possibly resist gratis entry to the Sumo Wrestling Museum?


Bangkok for free


Bangkok is a cheap place to visit anyway – most entry fees hardly make a scratch on the wallet and a lot of the street food costs barely anything. But if you insist on paying nothing, then there is no charge to enter either the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre or the rather gory Corrections Museum. Wandering around the markets is the usual free catch-all in Bangkok, but many of the temples – such as Wat Indraviharn, Wat Patum Wanaran and Wat Mangkorn Kamalawat don’t require entry fees. Meanwhile, Lumphini Park is the best place to stretch the legs and escape the chaos.


Los Angeles for free


The best free entertainment in LA is heading to the beach and indulging in some serious people watching – Malibu and Santa Monica are the best bets, while Venice Beach is a little quirkier. Then of course, you can stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame trying to spot the all important Chuck Norris star. Otherwise, there is a wealth of attractions without an entrance fee. The best of these are the Griffith Park Observatory, Getty Center, California African American Museum and California Science Center. There’s also lots of cool architecture in LA – you can easily spend a day sauntering around Downtown Los Angeles, cooing at impressive buildings.


Auckland for free


The best freebies in New Zealand’s biggest city are unquestionably outdoors. There are a series of decent beaches along Auckland’s North Shore – Devonport has the most charm. If it’s a good day, however, it’s hard to beat the 16km Coast to Coast walk, which takes you from Waitemata Harbour to Manukau Harbour. On the way, it passes most of Auckland’s premier green hotspots, including Mt Eden and The Domain. The latter plays host to the Auckland Museum, which works on a suggested donation system. It contains some great displays on volcanoes and Maori culture. The Domain is also the home of the Wintergarden – a pretty spot for those who like their exotic plants.